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August 04, 2022 Articles Living


Connor Hunter-French

Connor Hunter-French

With the ongoing cost of living crisis leaving few people across the country unaffected, it’s become increasingly vital that the residential construction industry adapts its approach to ensure affordability and sustainability work hand in hand for the greater benefit of the end user.

We sat down with Connor Hunter-French, an architect here at Collida, who always been passionate about creating homes, primarily to enhance a person’s wellbeing while being kind to the environment. From writing his university dissertation on social housing to implementing real-time projects like the Collida BRE homes, Connor is focused on providing energy efficient buildings and reducing the cost of heating to the masses.

Connor Hunter-French
Architect, Connor Hunter-French is passionate about creating homes that enhance a person’s wellbeing whilst being kind to the environment.

What is the heating vs eating debate?

The debate about heating vs eating has recently come to the forefront due to the present financial situation where almost 5.3 million people are having to choose between these necessities.

A recent poll of 2,000 adults, undertaken by the Post Office and Trussell Trust, highlighted that this is a dilemma faced by two in five of us. With inflation at a 30-year high and the soaring price of gas and electricity set to further increase in October this year, more people are being faced with the devastating decision of forgoing basic needs.

Why is the debate relevant to the construction industry?

It has now become crucial that, within the residential sector, we take stock and ensure that the homes we build play their part in addressing this challenge. Driving highly sustainable performance and incorporating energy saving tools can no longer be an added value reserved only for high-end properties, but instead viewed as a necessity for all.

How does the Collida model support the heating vs eating challenge?

We have recently invested in our BRE prototype homes with an aim to encourage local authorities nationally to roll out the model. We are providing a sustainable solution to offer affordable housing across the country, as we believe that people should live in homes where they do not have to constantly worry about energy costs.

Alongside a team of leading building physicists, we have adopted a fabric first approach and the Passivhaus standard to deliver true net zero carbon in operation homes, whilst also delivering greater than 20% lower embodied carbon against LETI benchmarks. This means our homes will provide certainty for residents, eliminating fuel poverty and mitigating the ongoing risk of rising energy prices.

What are the cost implications of heating a Collida home?

Our highly insulated, highly airtight construction delivers a total Energy Use Intensity (EUI) equal to or less than 35 kWh/m2/year (GIA). In financial terms this equates to a two bedroom, four-person, semi-detached home costing £783 per year to run, with £338 of this attributed to heating bills, averaging less than £30 per month to heat the home.

Current predictions from Cornwall Insight expect domestic customers will be likely to pay £3,244 a year from October, then £3,363 a year from January 2023; a significantly higher amount than required to warm a Collida home.

Tell us about Collida’s work with One Vision:

Founded in 2018, One Vision is a charity based in Watford that offers relief to people who are facing hardships in the local community. One Vision’s programmes allow people to break free from the cycle of poverty and sustain themselves with basic amenities. The charity also offers support to individuals who are facing financial difficulties and prevents them from choosing between food and energy.

Among its diverse programmes, One Vision has a food bank where it provides food staples for the local community. This is something that resonates with Collida and our work to develop the prototype homes, which showcase how affordability, sustainability and energy efficiency can be achieved in homes and further support financial stability for residents.

As a team we’ve recently completed a challenge to raise much needed funds for One Vision so it can continue with to support the local community.

The Collida team standing outside a house, celebrating completing a challenge to raise funds for One Vision.
Celebrating completion of the Collida Challenge walk from the Hitchin office to our prototype houses at the BRE.

What did the challenge involve?

We participated in a charity event where our team completed a marathon walk. We began the walk at our office in Hitchin, where the concept for Collida began, and ended it at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford, which is the home to our net zero Collida Living prototype homes.

By participating in the 26-mile walk, we wanted to draw attention to the heating vs eating debate affecting many and encourage local authorities to invest in homes where energy bills can be kept at a minimum.

After 15 members of the Collida team successfully completed the walk, we are thrilled to contribute our fundraising total towards the welfare of the community and spread awareness for greener homes that reduce energy consumption.

What are the next steps for Collida?

Through the BRE homes, we are proving that we can keep costs low and produce an energy efficient home that is future-proofed for years to come. By utilising modern methods of construction (MMC) we can develop a home that will reduce costs in the long term and show a clear return on investment through clever design.

We hope to continue to challenge the industry and offer opportunities within the sector to create a new wave of growth for sustainable social housing – in turn unlocking benefits for the end users.